Weak 2014 Turnout Could Mean Big 2016 for Initiatives

Fri, Dec 12 2014 by Neal Hobson

The low turnout of voters in the recent mid-term elections disappointed quite a few folks throughout the country. Those seeking to qualify initiatives for the 2016 ballot, however, have something to cheer about.  With fewer votes being cast come lower thresholds for signature requirements in many initiative states, especially in initiative heavy-weight California, where the signature requirement has dropped to the lowest raw number in 25 years.

You see, the signature requirement for initiatives in California is based on the number of votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election.  In the 2014 election, 7.3 million Californians turned out to vote, far fewer than the 10.1 million Golden State people who voted in 2010. The lower number of voters matters significantly because Californians must gather voter signatures totaling 8 percent of the last vote for governor to place a constitutional amendment initiative on the ballot and 5 percent to qualify a statutory ballot measure.

What does it mean for initiative proponents? While a statutory initiative in 2014 needed 504,760 voter signatures to earn a spot on the ballot, in 2016 only about 366,000 are needed to qualify.  For a constitutional amendment, the 2014 requirement was 807,615 and now the after 2014, the requirement will be around 586,000.

That’s an almost 28 percent drop in the signature requirements for initiatives in California.

Some fear the lower bar may result in a deluge of issues on the 2016 ballot. That’s not a fear we at Citizens in Charge share. In fact, California’s initiative and referendum process remains far more arduous and expensive than it should be. But we certainly hope there are more initiatives on the ballot in California and other states, so that voters can have more say over the political decisions that affect their lives.

SFGate: 2016 election poised for initiative avalanche